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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

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difficult—and sometimes deceptive—process of imagin-
ing oneself in another person's place.

Equipped with this general knowledge of human
nature, the historian, when he deals with an historical
character, examines external acts, thoughts that happen
to have been put into writing, medical evidence, official
records, perhaps the impressions of friends. Always he
has to work on external data which he combines with all
that he had previously learned concerning the interior of
a human personality. He does not study human nature,
therefore, in the way that an omniscient deity might
observe it, with an eye that pierces our unspoken in-
tentions, our thick folds of insincerity and the motives
that we hardly avow to ourselves. It is true that an
historian may feel that by imaginative sympathy he has
almost completed the gaps in his picture of some
historical personage, almost achieved what we Anight
call an internal knowledge of the man. By great insight
and by running all his molten experience into the mould
that has been presented to him, he may feel that he has
found the essential clue to a character—even to a man
who has hitherto baffled the interpreters. Even this
degree of knowledge fails, however, in that innermost
region of all, which has to be reached before a person-
ality can be assessed in a moral judgment. The genuine
utility of such knowledge lies in the opposite direction
altogether. In reality it adds more than anybody would
have imagined to the wealth of historical explanation
which can be assembled around a human action or a
personality. And that enrichment of historical explana-
tion is liable to be the thing which complicates or